Large Commercial Projects Key to Growth of Carolina’s A&K Painting

Paint is definitely in the blood of the Robbins family. For four generations now, they have been doing award-winning professional painting work from their home base in the Charlotte metropolitan area of North and South Carolina. The current family business is A&K Painting, founded by Andy Robbins in 1994.

“Andy started A&K with a van he borrowed from our father and $500 in his banking account,” says his brother and company president Kevin.

For a few years, the young company focused on both residential and commercial painting projects. Soon they worked their way up to larger commercial projects like the 475,000 square foot West Marine Corporate Distribution Center, the 32,000 square foot Summit Assisted Living Center, and the Tank Farm at Nation Ford Chemical. These types of jobs provided growth and large project experience and led Andy to decide in 2000 to work solely in the commercial and industrial markets.

Today the company has about 160 people in the field and is focused on growth and expanding its footprint in the Southeast, with an emphasis on the Carolinas. And they keep winning some of the largest and highest-profile coatings jobs in the area. That recently included the Kings Mountain Corporate Center – at 1.25 million square feet, the largest spec building in North Carolina – and the renovation of the North Wilkesboro Speedway, which hosted the 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race.

“The scope included the refurbishment of the existing facility including new suites, repainting existing and new steel structures, CMU retaining walls, handrails, murals and mural preservation,” Kevin says. Perhaps the biggest challenge of all, he adds, was taking a facility that had been abandoned for 27 years and giving it a new but vintage look and feel. Plus, the entire job had to be completed within a four-month window.

The project also required a wide range of coatings, and A&K partnered with Sherwin-Williams to determine the best products for each part of the job.

“They were able to meet the demands with quick turnaround on various materials with the changing scope,” Kevin says. “Our local store and rep Steve Goode were able to keep products in stock that were outside the norm for that area.”

Coatings used on the racetrack project:

working on victory lane at the North Wilkesboro Speedway

A&K Painting at work on the checkerboard in victory lane at the North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Another major recent job was A&K’s own new 40,000 square foot headquarters building (pictured at the top of the story). For the exterior, they chose Loxon® Self-Cleaning Acrylic Coating.

“We’ve used it on several projects in the past and we love the benefits of the product, especially the self-cleaning properties,” Kevin says.

This innovative Loxon coating is formulated to be self-cleaning by shedding dirt upon rain or water contact. Formulated to apply directly to bare or previously coated concrete, it provides a highly durable and weather-resistant finish that is highly alkali and efflorescence resistant and has excellent weathering protection including resistance to UV. The mildew-resistant formula contains agents that inhibit the growth of mold and mildew.

A culture and a system built for success

When asked what it takes to excel at projects of this magnitude, Kevin credits the company culture that the brothers and their valued team members have created over the years.

“We are process driven,” Kevin says. “We are leaders in the industry. We embrace change and are always constantly challenging what we are doing. We have systems that we follow, and we use technology to help us become more efficient.”

Those systems are one of the reasons that Andy was able to retire in July 2023 with the knowledge that the company will be in good hands with his brother and their management team at the helm.

“Our core values come from Andy,” Kevin says. “Number one is passion. This is all him! He doesn’t know how to quit.”

Being a family business has also been important to their success. “We support and take care of each other,” he says.

Mutual respect and trust are the company’s other key core values. As it states in the company mission statement: It’s where everything begins for us, and critical to how everything we do propels us forward to success.

“Our business is based on relationships, and you can’t have one without trust,” Kevin says. “We love working with people who appreciate what we do, and we make sure we don’t let them down!”

This article was originally published in the Winter 2023 issue of PPC magazine. ©2023 Randall Reilly. Kevin Robbins was interviewed by PPC Editor Mike Starling. Photography reprinted courtesy A&K Painting. Read more about what pro painters have learned on the job in the PPC magazine archive.